Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 29, 2014

Local Model General Assembly students to take seats in Capitol

TAZEWELL,Va. — Tazewell County high school students who learned how Virginia’s state government works by participating in a Model General Assembly learned more Monday from a former governor about the responsibilities of public office.

Former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles of Virginia, now director and CEO of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, spoke with Model General Assembly students during a banquet in Tazewell, Va. He spoke with the students and visiting dignitaries about the importance of education throughout the state.

“I stress the importance of education, especially in Virginia’s rural areas,” Baliles said. “In more recent years I have traveled across the country and around the world as a lawyer and as a member of corporate boards. I have seen how trade, technology and globalization have changed lives, economies and countries, and I have concluded, with others, that increasingly education is the engine that drives the America economy. It is education that is the coin of the realm and will determine the quality of our lives as well as our economy in the future.”

Model General Assembly students advance their education by conducting General Assembly sessions in the very Richmond, Va., chambers where delegates and state senators draft and debate bills. Ten Tazewell High School students participate in the program along with 20 Richlands High School students and another 18 from Graham High School.

 Like the actual elected officials, students introduce legalization and debate whether it should become state law, said Tazewell High School senior Danielle Meadows, president of the Model General Assembly.

During the last Model General Assembly, the students debated bills concerning topics ranging from school issues to guns, she said.

“I never realized that it was such hard work to be part of the government,” said Tazewell High School junior David Hilton.

“I learned respect,” Meadows said of the General Assembly’s duties. “We can sit at home and complain, but we don’t realize how hard it really is.”

Model General Assembly students do all the work their elected counterparts do during a session in Richmond, Va.

“We write bills, and then we go the House and Senate to debate them,” said Ashlyn Muncy, a Tazewell High School senior.

The students not only serve as delegates and senators, but also as assembly officers. Some even take the roles of lobbyists and journalists, said Sharon Davies, YMCA executive director. And it all takes place in the capitol.

“We get the use of the state capitol. A lot of states don’t get to do that. It’s a true simulation. They’re actually getting to do what the legislators do in their seats,” Davies said. She complemented the Tazewell County advisors, saying they did a “phenomenal job” with their Mock General Assembly.

“I served as floor leader in the Commonwealth’s House of Delegates,” said Katie Ray, another Tazewell High School senior. She thought that she might consider a real political career “somewhere in the deep future.”

One part of the banquet agenda was the presentation of a new portrait of the late Gov. George C. Peery, which will hang at Tazewell High School. Peery was Virginia’s 52nd governor. At the age of 20, he was high school’s principal. Madison Curry, a freshman at Tazewell High, created the painting.

“I hope to be an art therapist, and help little kids,” she said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at

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